Concessionary Fares update – questions left unanswered
As a result of the hard campaigning work from the Lib Dem Group over the last two years, the Cabinet was forced to look again at the original decision to only provide the statutory minimum free travel with a bus pass. This meant that on weekdays pass holders were limited to travel between 0930 and 2300, the Lib Dems wanted to extend this to 24 hr free travel for disabled users and from 9am for elderly users. However a number of questions from the Lib Dem Group were left unanswered as the decision on Concessionary Fares was made without allowing opposition questions about the new evidence presented in the report.
The new information included results from the small scale survey the Council carried out, and a letter from the Equality and Human Rights Commission which stated that the processes undertaken by Cabinet in the original decision needed ‘considerable improvements’.
Councillors were unable to ask questions about these important matters, and the decision to provide only the minimum free travel entitlement was voted through by the Cabinet without debate.
For more information, and a copy of the report, as well as the letter sent from the Equality Human Rights Commission – http://committeeminutes.suffolkcc.gov.uk/meeting.aspx?d=11/Dec/2012&c=The%20Cabinet
Park and Ride Consultation
The County Council has launched a consultation regarding the Park and Ride service, which is available at both the current Park and Ride sites in hard copy, and online here – http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/IpswichPR2012
There are only three questions in the consultation, which are –
- Would it be acceptable to use buses that are not dedicated to the Park and Ride scheme to deliver the service so long as a high frequency service is still maintained?
- If the services were changed so as not to offer the cross town link would this seriously disadvantage you as a passenger? (Currently the Park and Ride services are linked to each other so that a bus leaving one site goes all the way through Ipswich to the other site. A proposal is that the Park and Ride scheme reverts to its original operation with buses from each site going to the town centre only and returning to the same site. This may have the effect of improving reliability but may require some passengers to change buses in the town centre).
- If staff were not present on site would this have an impact on your journey? (Currently the Park and Ride sites are manned whilst the service is operating. They assist passengers and ensure that the facilities are kept to a high standard. A proposal is that the buildings could be used in a different way that still provide basic facilities (rest rooms etc) to passengers but without staff being present at all times.)
The deadline for this survey is the 5th of January, but they will accept late submissions so I encourage you to respond.
Fire Merger Update
Firstly a reminder that the County Council is still consulting, until the 14th of January, on the potential Fire Merger between Suffolk and Cambridgeshire Fire Services, and I would encourage you to respond to this. For more information please head to – http://www.suffolk.gov.uk/your-council/decision-making/consultations/delivering-the-best-fire-service-to-you/
In addition to this the Council revealed that the timescale for this would now be April 2015, rather than a potentially earlier date of 2014.
December Cabinet & Full Council Round-up
As mentioned previously the Cabinet meeting for December took place and discussed the Concessionary fares under somewhat controversial circumstances. However, there were a number of other items that you may find of interest –
- Suffolk Rail Prospectus – where the County has set out a number of improvements that it wants to see to the East Anglian franchise, including: better trains and speed of trains to London and an hourly service from Ipswich to Peterborough.
- Suffolk Agreed Syllabus for Religious Education
- Final Report of the SuffolkCounty Council Farms Policy Development Panel
- Highway Functions undertaken by District and Borough Councils
- Suffolk Local Flood Risk Management Strategy for Suffolk
- Procurement of Highways Services – to award Balfour Beatty Living Places as part of a £200m contract over five years, with the possibility of extending this to ten. The company will be responsible for the design and implementation of highways maintenance and improvement works, winter gritting, street lighting, traffic signals and bridge work throughout the county.
For a copy of the papers please go to – http://committeeminutes.suffolkcc.gov.uk/meeting.aspx?d=11/Dec/2012&c=The%20Cabinet
In addition to Cabinet, there was also a Full Council meeting in December. However the meeting did not have a significant agenda, mainly covering a number of annual reports, from the Scrutiny Committee, the Audit Committee and a report on the Council’s Property portfolio. If you’d like to find out more, papers are available here – http://committeeminutes.suffolkcc.gov.uk/meeting.aspx?d=20/Dec/2012&c=County%20Council
New Youth Travel Provision on the cards?
The next Cabinet meeting will take place on the 29th of January, and discuss important items like the County Council budget.
Another very important item that is going to be discussed is the possibility of implementing a new Suffolk Travel Card Scheme for young people. The Lib Dems had for many years championed a discount travel card for young people. This was introduced as the eXplore card back in 2005, while we were still running the council in coalition with Labour. The card was removed by the Conservatives in 2010 and we have been campaigning for its reintroduction ever since. We have twice put it into our alternative budget and also organised a public petition. The removal of the card caused significant difficulties for young people in Suffolk to travel independently and increased the cost of travel to further education centres. I will let you know more about this in the next Parish Report, once the papers are released.
New Head of Children’s Services
There will be a new head of Children Services at Suffolk County Council this year, following the departure of the previous interim Director, Simon White.
Sue Cook, the former interim Corporate Director at Southend-on-Sea Borough Council, will become the County Councils new Director of Children and Young People’s Services.
We hope that education results in Suffolk will improve under her leadership. Sadly the County’s results have fallen way behind the national average in the last eight years. Having said that schools in Belstead Brook Division are doing extremely well. Sproughton, Copdock Primary and Hintlesham and Chattisham primary schools are all highly ranked in terms of Key Stage 2 results. However schools in surrounding areas are not doing as well and there are some poor results in areas like Lowestoft, where there are high levels of deprivation and low aspirations.
Broadband Contract Signed
Just before Christmas there was a significant step towards improving Broadband speeds in the County with the signing of the contract between Suffolk County Council, BT, and the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK.
This means that BT Openreach can now begin work on the ground, surveying the locations around the County. Once this is complete further news about the next stages of the project will be released.
This will mean that in just three years around 9 out of 10 Suffolk properties are expected to be able to connect to a faster internet connection.